Congratulations! You’ve secured an interview at a law firm, having made the shortlist of lucky candidates. Preparation for an interview is vital to ensure you are in the best possible position for success and to make sure you overcome any nerves.
Most interviews follow a fairly similar format, so here are some tips to help you land the associate job of your dreams.
What to research ahead of your interview
Prior to the interview, as a bare minimum, you should spend some time researching the following:
The firm or business
Have you reviewed the website thoroughly? In addition, you also need to Google the firm, read the legal press, and check for recent stories. Look at websites like Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 and check the relevant summaries and rankings.
Have you looked at the profiles or biographies of the people you are meeting? It is worth checking both the firm’s website and LinkedIn. You should also review the details for the specific department to see the work they typically do and any information you can find about their clients.
If there is a job summary, read through it carefully. You should also speak to the search consultant you are working with to see if there is any additional detail they can provide about the position. What most excites you about the opportunity? What is it about this particular firm and/or role that interests you? Think about how you will get this across to your interviewers.
Partners tend to use CVs as a reference point to ask you questions about yourself and your experience. They want to get to know you and understand the level of your technical ability. This will often be done by questioning you about the work and experience you have put on your CV. Anything included in your CV could be discussed in the interview, so make sure you have familiarised yourself with it (especially projects, deals, and cases you might have worked on).
Consider what questions you might be asked about your experience to date and your longer-term career goals. The best interviews are conversational rather than interrogatory. You should try to answer a question fully rather than with “yes” or “no” answers. Equally, it is important to be precise and not waffle. If you don’t know the answer to something, explain why you don’t and how you would try to work it out if you were back in the office. It’s also important to remember to have some questions prepared for your interviewers; these could range from questions about the team or company culture to more specific technical questions.
Getting to the interview
The practicalities are just as important as your preparation. You don’t want to turn up to your interview flustered and on the back foot. Do you know where the interview is being held? If it’s in person, make sure you plan your route (and a backup route just in case) to ensure you arrive on time. Give yourself plenty of time and try to arrive ten minutes before the interview. If it’s over a video call, make sure you have a clean and tidy space where there’s no chance you could be interrupted. Speak to your consultant to check you have the right link or details.
At the interview
It may be a cliché, but first impressions count. It is vital you turn up to an interview smartly presented and well-prepared. Even if you are nervous going into the interview, small things like remembering to smile and maintaining eye contact can make a big difference. Conversely, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Firms want to hire strong candidates, but they do not want people who are going to be difficult to manage.
Ultimately, the interviewers will want to find out whether you have the skills and experience needed for the role. They will also want to explore whether you are the right fit for the team and/or firm, and if you are motivated to move to the company.
In the earlier stages of a lawyer’s development, the priorities for a potential employer are going to be enthusiasm and potential rather than expecting someone to be the finished article. To this end, it is important you show the interviewer that you are hard-working and a good team player. You must not be overly critical of your current employer (despite the fact you are looking to leave), nor discuss the likely salary or hours you will be working. These points can be covered with your consultant.
After the interview
Remember to thank the interviewers for their time and the opportunity to meet them. If you enjoyed the interview and are still interested in the role, make sure you convey your enthusiasm.
Once you leave the interview, it is crucial you contact your search consultant promptly to provide them with your feedback. The sooner this is done, the sooner they will be able to contact the firm to try and get the firm’s feedback on how they felt the interview went. Over the coming days (or weeks), your consultant should be in a position to relay positive or negative feedback and then help you prepare for the next stage in the process.
If you are fortunate enough to be made an offer, congratulations! Your consultant will then be well-placed to talk you through the next steps and how to handle your resignation from your existing firm.
At MRA Search, our consultants add value to your job-searching process by offering in-depth market knowledge and expertise. They can also provide guidance on selecting seats and an honest assessment of your most viable options in an empathetic and supportive capacity.